This research explores the extent to which aggregate violence among players and spectators of soccer teams is affected by the urban ecology and the sports ecology in which the teams operate. Sports violence is viewed here as characteristic of the social system. The analysis focuses on 297 soccer teams in Israel, and demonstrates that violence in sports is systematically related to both the team’s urban ecology and sports ecology. First, teams representing communities of subordinate ethnic minorities are more violent than others. Second, teams competing in higher level (professional) divisions and teams at either the bottom or top of their division (high levels of competition) are more violent. Third, teams characterized by violent players are more likely to have violent spectators. Finally, the causal relation between player and spectator violence is asymmetric: players affect spectators’ violence but not vice versa. These findings are discussed and interpreted in light of sociological theory.
Moshe Semyonov is with the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. Mira Farbstein was with the Department of Sociology at the University of Haifa, Israel, at the time of this writing.